Camp Fire River Bend | Camp Tannadoonah

Water Safety

Camp Tannadoonah is located on the north shore of beautiful Birch Lake. The waterfront is the hub for many activities at camp, including swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, stand up paddleboarding, waterskiing, and wakeboarding. All of our water activities require a highly-trained, vigilant staff to keep our campers safe.

We train all of our waterfront staff right here at Camp Tannadoonah. Miss Amber, our CEO, has been a certified Lifeguard since 1995, and spent five summers as a member of the waterfront staff at Camp Tannadoonah, and also worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor for the Davison Athletic Club and for South Bend Parks and Recreation. In 2001, Miss Amber served as the Waterfront Director at Camp Tannadoonah. Miss Amber is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard Instructor, and personally trains and certifies our lifeguards at camp prior to the start of each camp season.

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All of our lifeguards are also required to arrive at staff training a few days early for a special waterfront training session. During this session, the Waterfront Director provides training specific to our waterfront environment, and confirms that all of the lifeguards are capable, vigilant, and mature individuals. We know that when it comes to water safety, there is no substitute for watchful, well-trained staff!

The waterfront training session includes rehearsing emergency procedures, practicing rescue techniques, and learning the curriculum and procedures for each of our waterfront activities. In addition, the entire staff (even those who do not normally work at the waterfront) receives training on basic rescue techniques and waterfront emergency procedures, in case a non-waterfront staff member is present when an emergency arises.

All waterfront activities are staffed by at least one lifeguard. This includes swimming lessons, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, stand up paddleboarding, waterskiing, and wakeboarding classes. In addition, there is a second lifeguard on duty as lookout during all waterfront activity periods. For all boating activities, waterskiing, and wakeboarding, campers and staff are required to wear a Coast Guard Approved flotation device (life jacket).

All campers must complete a swim test prior to participating in any waterfront activities. Swimming takes place only in our designated swim area. This area is divided into three camper swim areas: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Non swimmers are automatically placed in the beginner area, where the maximum depth of the water is approximately 4 feet.

To be eligible for boating, waterskiing, or wakeboarding, a camper must earn either an intermediate or advanced swimming band. To earn an “intermediate” band, campers will be asked to swim two lengths of the waterfront without assistance and without stopping to rest (approx 50 meters). To earn an “advanced” band, campers must swim a third length.

Classes for all Red Cross swimming levels are offered, so lessons are appropriate for campers of all ages and swimming abilities. Campers who plan to take lessons are tested on Sunday evening to determine to which of the 6 Red Cross Swimming levels they will be assigned. At the end of the week campers who took lessons will be tested to see if they have met all of the Red Cross Requirements, in order to move on to the next swimming level.

Campers “check in” and “check out” of the swim area in pairs, using a “buddy number” system. Each camper is assigned a buddy number for the week, and they have a tag on the buddy board that they use to indicate that they are checking in or out of the waterfront. During free swim times, there are at least 5 certified lifeguards and at least 3 other aquatic observers or lookouts on duty. If there are an unusually large number of swimmers in the water, additional guards and observers are assigned. During free swims, there is a buddy check at least every 10 minutes, to confirm the location of all swimmers.

Camp Tannadoonah adheres to all State of Michigan licensing regulations and American Camp Association guidelines on waterfront safety, including a strict prohibition on nighttime waterfront activities.

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